Conservation of globally important biodiversity and associated land and forest resources of Western Tian Shan mountain ecosystems to support sustainable livelihoods

Report Cover Image
Evaluation Plan:
2018-2022, Kyrgyzstan
Evaluation Type:
Mid Term Project
Planned End Date:
12/2019
Completion Date:
12/2019
Status:
Completed
Management Response:
Yes
Evaluation Budget(US $):
21,887

The Western Tian Shan is one of the world’s 200 priority ecoregions and one of 34 global biodiversity hotspots, and has been designated as a natural World Heritage Site. The Tian Shan act as a bridge connecting fauna and flora of Himalayas and Hindu Kush across Pamir with biota of Siberia, and across Dzungar Ala-Tau and Altay with biota of Mongolia, which results in a unique combination of fauna and flora elements. In the Western Tian Shan, fauna and flora are characterized by high diversity and concentration in a relatively small area. In terms of flora, higher plants number more than 2,500 species, and endemism of the flora is 12%; vertebrates number well over 400 species. However, many of the Western Tian Shan’s species and unique ecosystems are threatened by poor forest and land management; the region is home to 54 Red List plant species, and 27 Red List species of fauna, including the snow leopard. The forests of Western Tian Shan have juniper, spruce, maple, nut, fruit, and tugai forest communities, including fruit and nut wild relatives, but the regions forest resources are shrinking. These forests suffer from inadequate forest management and enforcement, and are degraded by intensive land use, such as overgrazing of forest pastures. The rate of natural regeneration and reforestation is unable to keep pace with the rate of forest degradation. The grassland areas of the Western Tian Shan are subject to extensive, uncontrolled agro-pastoral land use. Growing livestock numbers lead to extensive unregulated use of mountainous grasslands for grazing and causes high disturbance to wild ungulates such as argali and ibex, key snow leopard prey species. The rangelands of Western Tian Shan are susceptible to overgrazing, droughts, and inadequate natural regeneration in the face of these pressures. Today, over 60% of pastures in Western Tian are eroded and the quality of pastures has declined by four times compared to 1980s levels.

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Title Conservation of globally important biodiversity and associated land and forest resources of Western Tian Shan mountain ecosystems to support sustainable livelihoods
Atlas Project Number: 00101450
Evaluation Plan: 2018-2022, Kyrgyzstan
Evaluation Type: Mid Term Project
Status: Completed
Completion Date: 12/2019
Planned End Date: 12/2019
Management Response: Yes
Focus Area:
  • 1. Others
Corporate Outcome and Output (UNDP Strategic Plan 2018-2021)
  • 1. Output 1.4.1 Solutions scaled up for sustainable management of natural resources, including sustainable commodities and green and inclusive value chains
Evaluation Budget(US $): 21,887
Source of Funding: GEF
Evaluation Expenditure(US $): 21,887
Joint Programme: No
Joint Evaluation: No
Evaluation Team members:
Name Title Nationality
GEF Evaluation: Yes
GEF Project Title: Conservation of globally important biodiversity and associated land and forest resources of Western Tian Shan mountain ecosystems to support sustainable livelihoods
Evaluation Type: Mid-term Review
Focal Area: Biodiversity
Project Type: FSP
GEF Phase: GEF-1
GEF Project ID: 6958
PIMS Number: 5411
Key Stakeholders: State Agency for Environment Protection and Forestry of the Kyrgyz Republic
Countries: KYRGYZSTAN
Comments:

Mr. Bellamy Jean-Joseph, International Consultant

Lessons
Findings
1.

3. EVALUATION FINDINGS

This section presents the findings of this MTR adhering to the basic structure proposed in the TOR and as reflected in the UNDP project review guidance.

3.1. Project Strategy  This section discusses the assessment of the project strategy – including its relevance - and its overall design in the context of Kyrgyzstan.

3.1.1. Project Design 

As presented in Section 1 above, the Western Tian Shan is part of the Tian Shan and Alay ranges, acting as a bridge connecting fauna and flora of Himalayas and Hindu Kush across Pamir with biota of Siberia, andacross Dzhungar Ala-Tau and Altay with biota of Mongolia. Its fauna and flora are characterized by high diversity and concentration in a relatively small area. There are about 300 species of fungi, several hundred species of algae, 100+ species of lichens and mosses and more than 2,500 species of higher plants, covering 673 geneses and 109 families. Endemism of the flora is 12%. Vertebrate fauna in the Western Tian Shan is represented by 61 species of mammals, 316 species of birds, 17 reptiles, 3 amphibians, and 31 species of fish, all with a high level of endemism. The region is home to 54 Red List higher plant species, and 27 Red List species of fauna, including the snow leopard. The rich diversity of plant and animal wealth is attributed to the high mountainous systems of Tian Shan and Pamir-Alay that reach up to 7,000m above sea level and accumulate moisture from the upper reaches of the atmosphere. High mountains are islands of biological diversity among monotonous plains. Being part of the mountains of Central Asia biodiversity hotspot, the Western Tian Shan is listed as one of the WWF Global 200 priority ecoregions for global conservation and one of the Conservation International’s 34 global biodiversity hotspots. In July 2016, the Western Tian Shan was designated as a Natural World Heritage site at the 40th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Istanbul.


Tag: Forestry Biodiversity Relevance Programme/Project Design

2.

3.1. Project Strategy

3.1.1. Project Design (continuation)

 • Human-Wildlife Conflicts: Growth in the number of livestock leads to growth in conflicts between humans and wildlife. Overgrazing reduces suitable habitat areas for wild ungulates, thus potentially bringing them into increased contact with humans. The location of herders’ camps close to high altitude pastures and their frequent poaching of wildlife significantly influences the behavior of animals, with consequences on habitat use and availability for wild ungulates. The avoidance and reduction of available habitat and time to graze in pastures affects the survival and reproduction of individual animals and the size and trends in population. • Overgrazing in Forests: The problems of overgrazing highlighted above in relation to grassland ecosystems also affect vulnerable forest ecosystems, some of which are also used as “forest pastures” where domestic livestock are grazed. Unregulated livestock grazing presents a pressure on high conservation value juniper and fir forests, which are key components in the ecosystem mosaic comprising the globally significant biodiversity of the Western Tian Shan. Such forest stands are also important elements of habitat corridors for wild ungulates, and for snow leopard dispersal between alpine grasslands as a single snow leopard’s home range is typically large enough to encompass several mountain ridges and the valleys in between. • Unsustainable Use of Forests: Dependence on imported timber is high in Kyrgyzstan, since commercial forestry is prohibited, and relatively low volumes of wood are drawn mostly from maintenance/sanitary cutting. The high price of wood is putting illegal pressure on forests for fuelwood and local construction. Inadequate forest management practices, including the legally permission of harvesting over-mature trees in unprotected areas, contribute to the degradation of forests. Additionally, the rate of natural regeneration and reforestation is unable to keep pace with the rate of forest degradation. • Legal and Illegal Hunting of Ungulates: In the Western Tian Shan, the primary source of hunting pressure is from legal and illegal hunting of ungulates by local populations; considered as sporthunting. Illegal hunting (mainly of ungulates, e.g. ibex) remains a significant issue and the enforcement capacity of the Department of Rational use of Natural Resources is limited to four hunting enforcement officers for all of the Toktogul district, and only two hunting enforcement officers for the Toguz-Toro district – equating to one enforcement officer per almost 200,000 ha. In the meantime, the number of reported cases of poaching of snow leopard is not high in Kyrgyzstan but is still an issue of concern. There was one identified incidence in January 2016. 


Tag: Forestry Biodiversity Natural Resouce management Relevance Project and Programme management

3.

3.1. Project Strategy

3.1.1. Project Design (continuation)

As a response to these threats and barriers the project has been implementing a landscape conservation and management approach, which includes the identification of key biodiversity areas (KBAs), of buffer zones and corridors, the implementation of a sustainable forest and pasture management approach, and activities to conserve snow leopards, including supporting the full participation of Kyrgyzstan stakeholders in the global snow leopard coordination support mechanism. The project objective is "to promote a landscape approach to protection of internationally important biodiversity, and land and forest resources in the Western Tian Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan". The project is divided into three components: 1) Conservation and sustainable management of Key Biodiversity Areas within landscape; 2) Ecosystem resilience and habitat connectivity in Western Tian Shan are enhanced by regulating land and forest use in buffer zones and corridors and support to sustainable livelihoods; and 3) Strengthened national capacities for snow leopard conservation, promoting Kyrgyz regional and global cooperation, and setting the scene for up-scaling (see more detailed about the project strategy in Annex 1). Within this context, the project is fully relevant for Kyrgyzstan, supporting the government to strengthen its capacity to implement a landscape conservation and management approach. The project is also well aligned with several national strategies, programmes and priorities: 


Tag: Forestry Biodiversity Natural Resouce management Policies & Procedures Programme/Project Design

4.

3.1. Project Strategy

3.1.1. Project Design (continuation)

Development Program of the Kyrgyz Republic for the period 2018-2022 Under this program, the government of Kyrgyzstan committed to introduce the concept of “green economy” at all level of government operations. The strategy is to introduce the “green growth” principles in the structure of the economy at all stages (planning, decision-making, implementation and monitoring) and transit the national development toward a minimal impact on the natural environment. An emphasis of this program is on improving environmental data management, which consequently should improve the formulation and implementation of development plans, including better decision-making. This program also emphasizes the need to strengthen environmental assessment of projects by making the environmental impact assessment process permanent. Finally, much related to the project, this development program states the need to conserve and restore gradually natural ecosystems, including conserving and increasing the area of forest ecosystems and expanding/strengthening the network of SPNAs.  


Tag: Biodiversity Effectiveness Gender Equality Gender Mainstreaming Women's Empowerment Policies & Procedures Programme/Project Design

5.

3.1. Project Strategy

3.1.1. Project Design (continuation)

Gender Considerations (continuation) 

The government resolution of June 27, 2012 No. 443 approved the Kyrgyz National Strategy for Gender Equality until 2020 and the National Action Plan for 2012-2014 for Achieving Gender Equality. This strategy was since amended in 2013 (No. 395), in 2015 (No. 786), in 2016 (No. 589), and in 2018 (No. 537). Furthermore, the law “On the Basics of the State Guarantees for Ensuring Gender Equality” prohibits explicit and implicit gender discrimination and does not support norms of common law, tradition and culture that discriminate against gender. It guarantees equal rights to ownership of property, provides for equal use rights to land, where rights are granted in this way, and provides equal protection of rights to land for men and women.However, despite an adequate legislative framework, it was found that traditional strict stereotypes of men and women’s roles in society and in household remain. It is still much believed that men should play the role of breadwinner and household leader, while women should confine themselves to domestic and children care work within the home. Women in Kyrgyzstan experience rather limited access to economic opportunities. Women’s independent economic activity has decreased almost two times within the decades since the country’s independence. Women are highly represented in the informal labor market and in certain service and trade sectors, which are high risk and lack social guarantees. Women in Kyrgyzstan spend three times more than men on housework and this number is higher in rural areas. During the design of the project, an inclusive gender approach for consulting communities were used, included focus group discussions with different social groups. It provided a better sense of inclusion at the community level. Based on these broad consultations, the project strategy was developed with a focus on improving women representation in all community-based bodies such as the pasture management committees. It stated that gender and women's empowerment, including issues such as their participation and role in community based natural resource management bodies and workload balance will be aligned with the UNDP Gender Equality Strategy (currently for the period 2018-2022). Furthermore, the project was to address the inclusive social mobilization approach to enhance women's participation in consultation process, in accessing land, pasture and forest resources of rural communities, and in project activities supporting alternative livelihoods contributing directly to women's economic empowerment. 


Tag: Biodiversity Effectiveness Gender Equality Gender Mainstreaming Women's Empowerment Programme/Project Design Project and Programme management Jobs and Livelihoods Capacity Building Women and gilrs

6.

3.1. Project Strategy

3.1.1. Project Design (continuation)

UNDP Strategy in Kyrgyzstan

The United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for the period 2012-20163, was built on lessons learned from the previous UNDAF cycle. This cycle was developed through a consultative, comprehensive and dynamic strategic priority-setting process. It provided a framework for collaboration with government entities and was well aligned with the national agenda, which was focus on four strategic priority pillars: (1) strengthening of economic potential; (2) governance efficiency; (3) socially oriented development; and (4) environmental safety. This UNDAF resulted in focusing on 3 areas identified as pillars for priority national development challenges to be addressed by the United Nations Country Team (UNCT): (1) Peace and Cohesion, Effective Democratic Governance, and Human Rights; (2) Social Inclusion and Equity; and (3) Inclusive and Sustainable Job-Rich Growth for Poverty Reduction. Protecting the environment was to be addressed under Outcome 2 of the third pillar: By end of 2016, sustainable management of energy, environment and natural resources practices is operationalized. The focus of this assistance framework under this outcome was on integrating an ecosystem approach into national and local development, improve the effectiveness of irrigation for agriculture, increase the agriculture production, and increase the non-carbon energy sources. The most recent UNDAF covering the period 2018-2022 was developed in close collaboration with the government, the civil society and other development partners. It also continues to use the “Delivering-as-one” approach4. This assistance framework contains four main priorities/outcomes, including the third priority: Environment, climate change, and disaster risk management with the following outcome: By 2022, communities are more resilient to climate and disaster risks and are engaged in sustainable and inclusive natural resource management and risk-informed development. 


Tag: Biodiversity Effectiveness Efficiency Partnership Project and Programme management Strategic Positioning Country Government

7.

3.1. Project Strategy

3.1.1. Project Design (continuation)

GEF Focal Area Strategy

As described in the project document, the project was developed (and is funded) under the GEF-6 cycle. It has been consistent with the objectives of, as well as contributing to several outcomes and outputs of the GEF’s Biodiversity, Land Degradation and Sustainable Forest Management Focal Area Strategies for the GEF-6 period. In particular, the project is well aligned with the biodiversity objectives 1 (Improve sustainability of protected area systems), 2 (Reduce threats to globally significant biodiversity), and 4 (Mainstream biodiversity conservation and sustainable use into production landscapes and seascapes and production sectors). It is well aligned with the land degradation objective 3 (Integrated landscapes: reduce pressures on natural resources from competing land uses in the wider landscape). Finally, the project is also well aligned with three sustainable forest management objectives: SFM-1: Maintained Forest Resources: Reduce the pressures on high conservation value forests by addressing the drivers of deforestation; SFM-2: Enhanced Forest Management: Maintain flows of forest ecosystem services and improve resilience to climate change through SFM; and SFM-3: Restored Forest Ecosystems: Reverse the loss of ecosystem services within degraded forest landscapes.


Tag: Biodiversity Efficiency Relevance Global Environment Facility fund Partnership Programme/Project Design

8.

3.1. Project Strategy

3.1.2. Results Framework / Log-frame

The Strategic Results Framework identified during the design phase of this project presents a wellarticulated set of expected results. No changes were made during the inception phase to the project strategy (expected results) that was presented in the Strategic Results Framework in the project document. The review of the objective and outcomes indicates a satisfactory and logical “chain of results” – Activities - Outputs - Outcomes - Objective. Project resources have been used to implement planned activities to reach a set of expected outputs (13), which would contribute in achieving a set of expected outcomes (3), which together should contribute to achieve the overall objective of the project. This framework also includes - for each outcome - a set of indicators and targets to be achieved at the end of the project and that are used to monitor the performance of the project.

The aim of the project is to promote a landscape approach focusing not only on Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA), but also buffer zones, corridors and sustainable forest and pasture management in wider landscape. This approach was identified as key to the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of forest and land resources, including the survival of snow leopard and its prey species, as well as the sustainable local community development. Responding to national priorities, the project has four characteristics: (i) preventing the further fragmentation of key biodiversity landscapes and degradation of forest and land resources inKyrgyzstan that provide critical ecosystem services; (ii) ensuring habitat connectivity across the Western Tian Shan landscape for key species, including snow leopard and prey; (iii) improving the conservation status, and sustainability of pasture and forest use in mountain ecosystems; and (iv) implementation of snow leopard and prey monitoring and conservation measures, and reduction of direct threats, in the Western Tian Shan and other Kyrgyzstan priority snow leopard conservation landscapes.


Tag: Efficiency Relevance Monitoring and Evaluation Project and Programme management Results-Based Management

9.

3.1. Project Strategy

3.1.2. Results Framework / Log-frame (continuation)

Nevertheless, despite this ambitious strategy with numerous planned activities to implement several new concepts, the project has been progressing well so far. The project document has been used as a “blue-print” by the project management team. As discussed in the previous section, gender considerations, including the empowerment of women is well included in the design of this project and through the micro-grant scheme currently in development, income generation in local communities to improve livelihoods is also part of the project design. Regarding indicators and their respective targets to measure the performance of the project, 6 indicators were identified to measure how well the project is progressing toward its objective; 4 indicators to monitor theprogress under outcome 1; 8 indicators to monitor the progress under outcome 2; and 3 indicators to measure the progress made under outcome 3 (see table 4 above) for a total number of indicators of 21. For a project of this size, it is a good number of indicators.


Tag: Biodiversity Efficiency Project and Programme management Results-Based Management Jobs and Livelihoods

10.

3.2. Progress Towards Results

This section discusses the assessment of project results; how effective the project is to deliver its expected results and what are the remaining barriers limiting the effectiveness of the project. 

3.2.1. Progress Towards Outcomes Analysis

As presented in Sections 3.1, the project has been implemented through three (3) outcomes. The implementation progress is measured though a set of 21 indicators and their respective targets. On the next page is a table listing key deliverables achieved so far by the project against each outcome and their corresponding targets. Additionally, a color “traffic light system” code was used to represent the level of progress achieved so far by the project, as well as a justification for the given rating (color code). Overall, the project is progressing well towards its targets and it has two and a half more years of implementation to go. This is an ambitious project with many “moving parts” and its scope is reflected in the rather long list of achievements presented in table 5 above. Nevertheless, the project management team has been able to implement activities and deliver intermediate results as planned in the project strategy; it is on track to be a successful project by December 2021. 


Tag: Forestry Biodiversity Effectiveness Efficiency Global Environment Facility fund Project and Programme management Results-Based Management

11.

3.2. Progress Towards Results 

3.2.1. Progress Towards Outcomes Analysis

Under Outcome 2 (GEF budget USD 1,608,576 – Used USD 377,397 or 24%), the project has focused on two areas: sustainable forest management and pasture management. Some plantations (including fencing) took place to restore some forest resources. Regarding strengthening pasture management, the focus of the project is on revising/improving the existing electronic pasture management system as well as on restoring degraded pastures and on the use of the revised e-Pasture Management System by herders/farmers. In addition, the project also supporting the mainstreaming of biodiversity conservation in local development planning in the Toktogul and Toguz-Toro districts. Working groups were established to revise local plans and integrate biodiversity conservation concept into these plans. Finally, a micro-grant scheme is being developed to provide small “green” grants to herders and farmers, in order to improve livelihoods of local communities. A first tranche of USD 100k should be deployed in the coming year. The progress under this outcome 2 is slower than under outcome 1. Part of the reasons are the fact that some activities related to forestry management are dependent on the officialization of the HCVF concept (Output 1.2 & 1.3) and that the micro-grant scheme has not started yet. Nevertheless, it is anticipated that all activities should be completed by the end of the project. The piloting of new management approaches for forests and pastures should be demonstrated by December 2021; and, when considering the enthusiasm of local communities observed by the Evaluator to access the micro-grant scheme, it is anticipated that additional incomes should be generated and should contribute to increasing the livelihoods of these communities. 


Tag: Biodiversity Natural Resouce management Effectiveness

12.

3.2. Progress Towards Results 

3.2.1. Progress Towards Outcomes Analysis

Outcome 3 (continuation) Nevertheless, despite the good progress made by the project in its first half, the broad scope of the project strategy raises two critical questions: how sustainable capacities developed with the support of the project are? Is the project spreading its resources too thin due to too many intervention areas and too many activities to be implemented? As discussed in Section 3.1.2, the strategy of the project includes the introduction of several new management concepts to conserve biodiversity such as METT, HCVF, SFM, PES, etc. These concepts require a lot of capacity development activities for being introduced in key organizations responsible for managing and conserving biodiversity. The implementation of the project is certainly adhering to its strategy designed at the outset. However, will activities implemented during the lifetime of the project be enough to ensure the sustainability of project achievements. At this point in time, this is a valid and a critical question that needs to be reviewed carefully in order to maximize the sustainability of project achievements. Good progress has been made, particularly in strengthening the enabling environment to better manage and conserve biodiversity. It includes few methodologies and concepts which were (or soon-to-be) officialized. The progress made in this area should be welcome and address some shortcomings in this area (legal framework) as stated in the “6th National Report for the Convention on Biological Diversity”. These results should also be sustained over the long term since they are now part of the official instruments to manage, monitor and surveil the natural capital in Kyrgyzstan.


Tag: Biodiversity Effectiveness Knowledge management Project and Programme management Results-Based Management Institutional Strengthening National Institutions

13.

3.2. Progress Towards Results 

3.2.2. Remaining Barriers to Achieve the Project Objective

The project started in January 2017 and will end in December 2021. At the time of this review, the project is in its 31st month of implementation with 29 more months to go before it ends. At this point, there is no critical barriers limiting its implementation over the remaining implementation period. As discussed in the previous section, the project overall effectiveness will depend much on how sustainable capacities developed with the project will be. So far, good progress has been made in most planned intervention areas; however, this is an ambitious project with a broad scope and the question remains as to will activities supported by the project be enough to sustain the achievements over the long term. 

At the strategic level, the rationale of the project for promoting a comprehensive integrated landscape approach for the protection of internationally important biodiversity, and land and forest resources in the Western Tian Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan was to remove three critical barriers that are preventing the implementation of the long-term solution, which consists in a comprehensive integrated landscape management approach, including the livelihood needs of local populations and protected areas as anchors of conservation within a productive semi-forested pastoral alpine landscape. These barriers were: (i) weak management of Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) including inadequate coverage for the spatial range of threatened species, most notably the snow leopard and prey; (ii) unsustainable management of land and forest in the wider landscape including poor focus on ecological requirements of wildlife (lack of corridors for wildlife habitat), including rare and threatened species such as snow leopard; and (iii) low uptake of and capacity to implement international best practices for snow leopard conservation and management of its habitat.


Tag: Biodiversity Challenges Project and Programme management Results-Based Management Risk Management

14.

3.2. Progress Towards Results 

3.3. Project Implementation and Adaptive Management

This section discusses the assessment of how the project has been implemented. It assessed how efficient the management of the project has been and how conducive it is to contribute to a successful project implementation.

3.3.1. Management Arrangements

The management arrangements of the WTS project is as follows: • The GEF Agency for this project is UNDP. As the project is implemented under the DIM modality, it is also the Executing Entity and the Implementing Partner of the project. It is responsible for the overall implementation of the project; including procurement and contracting, human resources management, and financial services. • The Implementing Partner/Responsible Partner of the project is the State Agency for Environment Protection and Forestry (SAEPF). It is responsible for the overall realization of project results, including the facilitation of all project activities. • The project is guided by a Project Board (PB) as the executive decision-making body of the project. It was established and the first meeting took place on December 7, 2017; 2 other meetings took place: July 2018 and February 2019. It is chaired by the Deputy Director of SAEPF and consists of 17 representatives of government agencies, international/national NGOs, two head of target government districts and four independent observers from civil society. The PB is responsible for making management decisions, in particular when guidance is required by the Project Coordinator. It plays a critical role in project monitoring and evaluations by assuring the quality of these processes and associated products, and by using evaluations for improving performance, accountability and learning. The PB ensures that required resources are committed. It also arbitrates on any conflicts within the project and negotiate solutions. The PB approves any essential deviations from the original plans.


Tag: Biodiversity Efficiency Global Environment Facility fund Oversight Policies & Procedures Project and Programme management

15.

3.3.1. Management Arrangements (continuation)

One Project Implementation Unit (PIU) was established in Toktogul, Jalal-Abad Province to implement activities under components/outcomes 1 and 2. It is comprised of two Field Specialists and one Driver. • The Project Quality Assurance role is fulfilled by the Programme and Policy Analyst in charge of Environment/Energy and Disaster Risk Management of UNDP-Kyrgyzstan, and its Programme Oversight and Support Unit.


Tag: Efficiency Human and Financial resources Implementation Modality Project and Programme management Institutional Strengthening

16.

3.3. Project Implementation and Adaptive Management

3.3.2. Stakeholder Engagement

As discussed in section 3.1.1, the project is relevant to national priorities. It was developed through local and national stakeholders’ consultations during the PPG phase, including workshops, focus groups with different social groups including women to capture their views and aspirations, field trips and one-to-one meetings. These consultations were held with national, regional and local government entities, development partners, academic institutions, NGOs and members of local communities in project areas. It included a joint expedition of two institutes of the National Academy of Sciences (Institute for Biology and Soils and Forest Research Institute) and SAEPF to confirm the species list in the targeted region and verify the biodiversity significance of the project sites. It also included a capacity needs assessment, which has been used to develop relevant training programmes to be implemented with the support of the project. In the meantime, during the PPG phase, the project also conducted a stakeholder analysis to identify key stakeholders and assess their respective roles and responsibilities. The table below is a summary of the plan to involve stakeholders developed at the outset of the project.

The extensive consultations and analysis conducted during the PPG phase ensured that this project responds well to national priorities (see also Section 3.1.1). As presented in the table above, the consultation process was concluded with the identification of stakeholders to the project and clear roles from each partner in implementing/participating in the various components of the project. However, despite a good analysis of stakeholders at the outset of the project, no specific strategy was identified in the project document to secure their engagement in the implementation of the project. Nevertheless, despite the lack of a stakeholder engagement strategy developed at the outset of the project, the project implementation team has been able to engage well all key stakeholders in the implementation of the project. The Evaluator found that the good consultation and engagement of stakeholders during the PPG phase has continued during the implementation of project activities. Since the implementation began, stakeholders have been kept engaged through project activities including PB meetings. Based on interviews and observations conducted for this evaluation, the project enjoys excellent partnerships with relevant government entities at all levels (national, regional and local); including ARIS, Association of Pasture Committees as well as non-governmental organizations such as NABU, Irbis, GSLEP, UCA, and Snow Leopard Foundation/Trust. 


Tag: Efficiency Partnership Programme Synergy Project and Programme management International Financial Institutions UN Agencies Coordination

17.

3.3. Project Implementation and Adaptive Management

The project also joined the Coordination and Consultative Council, an entity let by SAEPF and bringing together donors, and national and international stakeholders implementing forest related projects. This body has been overseeing the piloting of institutional reform in the forest sector led by SAEPF in six Leskhozes and testing different approaches to sustainable forest management involving local communities. The best practices will form the basis for a new forestry sector reform concept. The project has brought its experience in promoting HCVF, JFM and in restoring degraded forests and pastures. In conclusion, the assessment conducted for this evaluation reveals that key stakeholders are well engaged in implementing the project and good coordination mechanisms are in place to collaborate among related projects, including the exchange of best practices and lessons learned. The participative and collaborative approach used by the project implementation team is conducive for this good engagement and will certainly be contributing to the sustainability of project achievements over the long term. 

3.3.3. Work Planning

Project Annual Work Plans (AWPs) were produced every year from 2017. These AWPs were developed following UNDP project management guidelines, including the calendar year cycle (January to December for each year). Once finalized, these AWPs were reviewed and endorsed by the PB and approved by UNDP. The budgets for these AWPs are systematically recorded in the UNDP Atlas system. These AWPs details the list of main activities to be conducted during the coming year following the structure of the log frame (objective, outcomes, and outputs) of the project. For each activity, they include a tentative schedule (per month) when each activity will be implemented and a corresponding budget from the GEF grant and UNDP TRAC when appropriate. Based on the information collected, the Evaluator compared the budgeted annual work plans with the actual annual disbursements, the results are presented in the table below.


Tag: Biodiversity Donor relations Project and Programme management Results-Based Management Coordination

18.

3.3. Project Implementation and Adaptive Management

3.3.4. Finance and Co-finance

As discuss in Section 3.3.1, the implementation modality of the project to allocate, administer and report on project resources is the Direct Implementation Modality (DIM); that is UNDP took on the role of Implementing Partner. It has the technical and administrative capacity to assume the responsibility for mobilizing and applying effectively the required inputs in order to reach the expected outputs of the project. UNDP assumes the overall management responsibility and accountability for the implementation of the project. It follows all policies and procedures established for its own operations.At the time of this evaluation, the review of financial records as recorded in the UNDP Atlas system indicates that the actual expenditures allocated against the GEF project grant for the years 2017 to June 2019 represent about 33% (USD 1,321,781) of the approved total grant of USD 3,988,575 versus an elapsed time of 50% (30 months out of 60). The breakdown of project expenditures by outcome and by year is presented in the table below.


Tag: Efficiency Global Environment Facility fund Government Cost-sharing Implementation Modality Policies & Procedures Project and Programme management

19.

3.3. Project Implementation and Adaptive Management

3.3.4. Finance and Co-finance (continuation)

Co-financing Co-financing commitments at the outset of the project totaled the amount of USD 24,519,183 (see table below), which represented about 86% of the total amount of the financial resources committed in the project document of USD 28,507,758 (GEF grant + co-financing) for the implementation of the project. The pledged amounts listed in the table below were supported by co-financing letters. A large amount of this co-financing (58%) was to come from the SAEPF, the Responsible Partner, as both in-kind and through grants. UNDP was to provide less than 1% as cash (TRAC: USD 100,000) and an additional parallel financing of USD 5,427,383 (22%). Another large commitment was from the local Districts (Toktogul and Toguz-Toro) with a total co-financing contribution of 13% through grants. The rest was to come from other national entities as well as from GIZ.At the time of the MTR, limited reporting has been made on co-financing contributions. It only includes a correspondence from the SAEPF for mostly the period 2018-2019. The total co-financed amount reported by the government is approximately USD 870,000 which would be only 3.5% of the total committed at the outset of the project. In the case of UNDP, the TRAC amount logged in the Atlas system is USD 19,800 or about 20% of their commitment under TRAC. However, these figures represent only a partial reporting. It is recommended that the project implementation team reviews these commitments and request yearly the values co-financed by partners of the project. 


Tag: Efficiency Global Environment Facility fund Government Cost-sharing

20.

3.3. Project Implementation and Adaptive Management

3.3.5. Project-level Monitoring and Evaluation Systems

A M&E plan was developed during the formulation of the project – including sex disaggregated data and indicators - in accordance with standard UNDP and GEF procedures. A budget of USD 80,000 was allocated to M&E, representing a mere 2% of the GEF grant. No changes were made during the inception phase.The M&E plan was reviewed during the inception phase and no changes were made to the plan. A summary of the operating modalities of the M&E plan are as follows: • Performance indicators: A set of 21 indicators with their respective baselines and targets at the end of the project were identified and documented in the Strategic Results Framework. • Inception workshop: It was conducted on December 7, 2017 in Bishkek with an attendance of 87 people. The project strategy was explained in detail, as well as the Strategic Results Framework. The Evaluator noted that at this workshop, presentations from other projects were facilitated focusing on lessons learned and best practices. It included presentation of the UNDP-GEF project “Improving the Coverage and Management of Protected Areas in the Central Tien Shan", the BIOFIN project implemented by UNDP, the FAO-GEF project “Sustainable Management of Mountain Forests and Land Resources in the Context of Climate Change”, and the WB-GEF project “Integrated Management of Forest Ecosystems in the Kyrgyz Republic". Discussions were also facilitated on roles and responsibilities of the Implementing Agency, other partners/stakeholders and the Project Team and the first-year work plan was reviewed. No changes were made to the project strategy as documented in the project document; An inception report documented the inception phase including the minutes of the Inception Workshop.

• Quarterly Progress Reports: Quarterly progress were planned to monitor the progress and record it in the UNDP Enhanced Results Based Management Platform. Risks are also reviewed quarterly and updated in the Atlas system when needed. • Annual Project Review/Project Implementation Review (APR/PIR): These annual progress reports, combining both UNDP and GEF annual reporting requirements, are submitted by the Project Coordinator to the PB, using the UNDP standards for project progress reporting, including a summary of results achieved against the overall targets identified in the project document. They are following the GEF annual cycle of July 1st to June 30th. • Periodic Monitoring through Site Visits: UNDP Country Office and the UNDP-GEF RSC have been conducting visits to project sites to assess firsthand project progress. Field Visit Reports were prepared and circulated to the Project Team. • External mid-term and final evaluations: The mid-term evaluation (MTR) is underway (this report); a final evaluation will take place three months prior to the final PB meeting and will follow UNDP and GEF evaluation guidelines. The GEF Focal Area Tracking Tool was completed during the mid-term evaluation cycle and will be updated during the final evaluation. • Project Terminal Report: This comprehensive report will summarize the results achieved (objectives, outcomes, outputs), lessons learned, problems met and areas where results may not have been achieved. It will also lay out recommendations for any further steps that may need to be taken to ensure sustainability and replicability of project’s results.


Tag: Efficiency Communication Knowledge management Monitoring and Evaluation Policies & Procedures Project and Programme management Results-Based Management

21.

3.3. Project Implementation and Adaptive Management

3.3.5. Project-level Monitoring and Evaluation Systems (continuation)

Quantitative indicators give a clear measure of things and are numerically comparable. They also provide an easy comparison of a project progress over time and are easy to monitor and do not require too much resources to collect data. However, quantitative indicators also do not depict the status of something in more qualitative terms. Degree of capacity developed are often better captured by qualitative indicators. For example, what is the increased capacity of targeted institutions to sustainably manage forests in Toktogul and Toguz-Toro districts …. The answer to this question may not only be an area of over 40,000 ha of forests to be sustainably managed. It may not be measurable in strict quantitative terms, but it can be graded based on qualitative findings. In order to achieve this target, lots of capacities will need to be developed including the capacity to implement SFM measures, the capacity to incorporate HCVF approaches in forest management plans and the capacity of local communities to adopt these new measures and regulations. Having an adequate enabling environment for the implementation of HCVF is not enough; related organizations will need to improve their structures, mechanisms and procedures, and staff in these organizations will need to have the capacity to identify, plan, implement and monitor these new concepts. Measuring the degree to which these capacities are in place will be critical when assessing the sustainability of project achievements at the end of the project.


Tag: Biodiversity Natural Resouce management Efficiency Knowledge management Monitoring and Evaluation Quality Assurance Results-Based Management Institutional Strengthening National Institutions

22.

3.3. Project Implementation and Adaptive Management

3.3.6. Reporting

Management reports have been produced according to UNDP project management guidelines. They include AWPs that when finalized are endorsed by the PB; quarterly progress reports; and annual APRs/PIRs. The Evaluator was able to collect the 2017, 2018 and 2019 AWPs, and the APR/PIRs for 2018 and 2019, as well as the Implementation and Monitoring State Quality Assurance Report for 2017 and 2018. Overall, progress made by the project is being satisfactorily reported, following UNDP project progress reporting guidelines. The APRs/PIRs document the progress made against the project objective and outcomes on a yearly basis using the set of indicators reviewed in the previous section. These annual reports include also a review and update of the risks identified at the outset of the project and the steps taken to mitigate these risks when rated as critical.

The ratings given in APRs/PIRs were also reviewed as well as those in the Implementation and Monitoring State Quality Assurance Reports. The progress made against the overall development objective and outcomes has been rated as Moderately Satisfactory in both the 2018 and 2019 APR/PIR, and the same rating was given to the implementation progress in the 2018 report (no rating was given for this criterion in the 2019 report). Regarding the Implementation and Monitoring State Quality Assurance Reports, ratings are only given in the 2017 report. They include: Strategic: Highly Satisfactory; Relevant: Satisfactory; Social & Environmental Standards: Exemplary; Management & Monitoring: Highly Satisfactory; Efficient: Exemplary; Effective: Satisfactory; Sustainability & National Ownership: Highly Satisfactory. The Evaluator found that the ratings in the Implementation and Monitoring State Quality Assurance Reports were well justified. However, the ratings given in the APRs/PIRs are on the low side, particularly when considering the progress made so far (see Section 3.2.1).


Tag: Efficiency Monitoring and Evaluation Project and Programme management Results-Based Management

23.

3.3. Project Implementation and Adaptive Management

3.3.7. Communications / Knowledge Management

Communication is not “embedded” in the project strategy (Strategic Results Framework); i.e. it is not part of the expected results/deliverables. As a result, it is not part of the performance monitoring of the project; no indicators are tracking communication activities. However, it is part of the M&E plan whereby under learning and knowledge sharing “results from the project are to be disseminated within and beyond the project intervention zone through existing information sharing networks and forums”. The project is also due to identify and participate, as relevant and appropriate, in scientific, policy-based and/or any other networks, which may be of benefit to project implementation through lessons learned. As per the M&E plan, the project also needs to identify, analyze, and share lessons learned that might be beneficial in the design and implementation of similar future projects. A two-way flow of information between this project and other projects with a similar focus is also encouraged. However, the Evaluator noted that no budget was planned for this activity in the M&E plan. 


Tag: Biodiversity Efficiency Communication Knowledge management Monitoring and Evaluation Results-Based Management Awareness raising

24.

3.4. Sustainability

This section discusses how sustainable project achievements should be over the long-term. It includes a review of the management of risks and specific risks such as financial risk, socio-economic risks, institutional framework and governance risks, and environmental risks. Project risks were identified at the formulation stage and documented in the project document; including the risk mitigation strategy for each identified risk. It is a list of 4 anticipated risks, which are presented in the table below as well as their respective mitigation measures. The project implementation team has been monitoring these risks. The overall risk rating in APRs/PIRs was Low in the 2018 report and Moderate in the 2019 report. 

The project team has been monitoring these risks and reporting any critical risks in the annual APRs/PIRs reports. Risks are to be reported as critical when the impact and probability are high. No risks have been critical in the 2018 report. However, an additional risk was reported in the 2019 report as critical, which was not in the list of risks identified at the outset of the project. This is an organizational risk stated as “Frequent changes in the management of parks, as well as heads of local district administrations affect the work of the project. The project team has to re-explain the focus, goals and objectives of the project. The head of the district administration was replaced in Toktogul district, in Toguz-Toro district there is a second head of administration, also the director of Kan - Achuu SNP was replaced. In principle, such instability does not create a big threat to project implementation, since at the central level, arrangements remain within the project, but it affects the time frame for the implementation of project components, and the time spent by the project team for additional meetings with the new management”.


Tag: Biodiversity Natural Resouce management Sustainability Knowledge management Risk Management Institutional Strengthening National Institutions

25.

3.4. Sustainability (continuation)

3.4.1. Financial risk to Sustainability

When reviewing the sustainability of project achievements, financial risk is an area where some questions related to the long-term sustainability of project achievements need some attention. The project has been supporting the establishment of two new SNPs, including the procurement of equipment for Rangers to facilitate their fieldwork and better monitor and surveil fauna and flora within these new SNPs. The project also supported the strengthening of patrol groups to enforce anti-poaching, including the establishment of local Freelance Rangers groups. This support accompanied by new methods and procedures has been optimal for the establishment of these new SNPs. However, once the project will end, financial resources will still be needed to maintain the equipment and at times to replace it, as well as the need for the government to continue to support these two new SNPs. As it stands currently, the government funding to these two new SNPs is much lower than funding provided to other similar SNPs in Kyrgyzstan. Nevertheless, as discussed in other sections of this report, this review confirms the government’s commitment to promote better approaches to biodiversity conservation. It is a priority for the government and so far, it is committed to the change process in this area. Conserving biodiversity is an important sector for Kyrgyzstan, particularly for the development of eco-tourism; it is expected that the government will continue to implement this priority and support it with the necessary financial resources, including resources to scaleup project achievements to other parts of Kyrgyzstan. It is also worth mentioning that the BIOFIN project implemented by UNDP is also focusing on financing biodiversity conservation in Kyrgyzstan. It supported an Environmental Finance Policy and Institutional Review, as well as an expense review in the environmental area. Based on these findings, the BIOFIN project proposed a set of 11 solutions to the government to finance biodiversity conservation and in close collaboration with the government, some of these solutions are being selected and reviewed before being implemented. 


Tag: Biodiversity Tourism Efficiency Sustainability Government Cost-sharing Procurement Jobs and Livelihoods Technology

26.

3.4. Sustainability (continuation)

3.4.3. Institutional framework and governance risk to Sustainability

The review did not find any institutional and governance risks to the sustainability of project outcomes. As discussed previously in this report, the project is a direct response to the government agenda to strengthen its approach for biodiversity conservation, including the management of its protected area network. The project is “rooted” in national priorities, including its NBSAP 2014-2020. The project has been supporting capacity development activities to strengthen institutions dealing with the management of biodiversity in Kyrgyzstan, including strengthening the legislation and the regulatory framework in this area. Training has been provided on several topics related to biodiversity conservation. The project is supporting the implementation of new concepts for biodiversity conservation focusing on KBA, ecosystem resilience and habitat connectivity, livelihood of local communities, and Snow Leopard conservation. It is anticipated that the government will continue to implement these new measures in the foreseeable future. Project achievements are already partially institutionalized; they should be sustained in the medium-term and used as demonstrations to be replicated throughout Kyrgyzstan. Overall, once the project will be completed, Kyrgyzstan should be better equipped for managing/conserving its biodiversity. 


Tag: Biodiversity Environmental impact assessment Sustainability Policies & Procedures Results-Based Management Risk Management Institutional Strengthening National Institutions

Recommendations
1

4.2. Recommendations

Based on the findings of this mid-term review, the following recommendations are suggested. 

R1. It is recommended to conduct a capacity assessment and allocate project resources to consolidate capacities during the remaining implementation period of the project.

Issue to Address The scope of the project is broad. It includes the introduction of several new management concepts to conserve biodiversity such as METT, HCVF, SFM, PES, etc. Introducing these concepts require a lot of capacity development activities to mainstream them in key organizations responsible for managing and conserving biodiversity. Activities implemented during the lifetime of the project may not be enough to ensure the sustainability of project achievements. Despite the good progress made by the project so far, two critical questions are raised: how sustainable capacities developed with the support of the project are? Is the project spreading its resources too thin due to too many intervention areas and too many activities to be implemented? In order to maximize the sustainability of project achievements, it is recommended to focus on developing capacities of individuals (skills and knowledge) and on strengthening organizational processes and systems for the remaining implementation period of the project.

2

R2. It is recommended to conduct feasibility studies in the two SNPs to identify the potential for diversifying sources of income, including development of ecotourism and potential impact on local livelihoods.

Issue to Address The project has been supporting the establishment of the two new SNPs: Alatai and Kan-Achuu. They still not get the same level of funding from the government as other PAs in the country. In the meantime, there are expectations that these 2 new SNPs will be able to diversify their sources of revenue and that these protected areas will also provide additional sources of income to local communities and increase their livelihoods. It is recommended to conduct feasibility studies in these 2 parks to identify potential sources of income, their feasibility and the possible economic impacts to increase livelihoods of local communities. 

3

R3. The recommendation is well noted and will follow up under the AWP 2020.

4

R4. It is recommended to conduct a strategic review of the overall PA network in Kyrgyzstan; including its legislation, management arrangements and roles and responsibilities.

Issue to Address 

Kyrgyzstan is on its way to increase its area of protected areas to 10% of the total territory by 2020. There is a policy and legislative framework in place. However, the network of PAs still suffers from underfunding and suboptimal management, including the fact that most PAs have no legally backed bufferzones and no corridors for the protection of some species such as the Snow Leopard and high conservation value forests are not protected. According to the “6th National Biodiversity Report for the CBC”, the network of PA in Kyrgyzstan needs to improve its management system; its legislation to eliminate shortcomings; its management arrangements including a clearer delineation of responsibilities between state bodies, local state administrations and local self-government authorities; and its monitoring. Within the framework of the current NBSAP covering the period till 2030, it is recommended to conduct a strategic review of the PA network in Kyrgyzstan in order to identify key issues preventing the development of a more effective network and explore the solutions to address these shortcomings. 

5

R5. It is recommended to increase the participation of key stakeholders in the procurement of project goods and services.

Issue to Address

The implementation of project activities has a lot of “moving parts”, rendering the management and administration a complex affair. The project implementation team has been using a variety of management tools to get the job done efficiently: adaptive management, flexibility, consensus building, innovation, transparency, partnerships, collaborative management, etc. It has been using all available “channels” to deliver activities and reach expected results as planned. However, within this context and considering that the project implementation modality is DIM – i.e. UNDP assumes the overall management responsibility and accountability for the implementation of the project – the procurement process is still viewed as slow by stakeholders and they would like to see a more transparent/participative process in procuring project goods and services. It is recommended to increase the participation of key stakeholders in the project procurement processes.

6

R6. It is recommended to monitor the financial status of the project and request a no-cost time extension of the project if the GEF grant will not be expended by December 2021.

Issue to Address 

As of end of June 2019, total expenditures amount to about USD 1.322M representing about 33% of the GEF grant versus an elapsed time of 50% (30 months out of 60). When considering the timeline left for implementing the project (30 months), it is doubtful that the entire budget will be expended by December 2021. From an average monthly disbursement of USD 44,059 so far, the project would need to double its average monthly disbursement to USD 88,893 for the remaining implementation period. It would require a drastic change in managing the project with a significant increase of project activities and disbursements to reach this average. It is recommended to monitor the disbursements in the coming year and if needed recommend a no-cost time extension of the project to consolidate its achievements. 

7

R7. It is recommended to review co-financing commitments and request yearly estimates from Partners of the project.

Issue to Address

Co-financing commitments at the outset of the project totaled USD 24,519,183, which represented about 86% of the total amount of the financial resources committed in the project document (GEF grant + cofinancing). So far, limited reporting has been made available on co-financing contributions. Yet, Partners have certainly contributed critical resources to the implementation of this project. It is recommenced to review theses co-financing commitments and request Partners to provide yearly estimates of their contributions.

8

R8. It is recommended to add and monitor a political risk to the project risk log.

Issue to Address

The current risk log covers most aspects of the project where issues can arise. It includes the risk of insufficient capacity development and practical know-how within state institutions and local authorities by the end of the project to allow sustainability of project achievements; and the risk of implementing legislative changes in a timely manner that are required to develop an adequate enabling environment for the promotion of these new landscape approaches. However, one additional risk that may arise is a change in political support for promoting new landscape approaches to biodiversity conservation and for integrating these new approaches within the environmental sector. It is recommended to add this risk to the risk log of the project and monitor/report on it yearly.

9

R9.  It is recommended to develop a vision and objectives for the two new State National Parks: Alatai and Kan-Achuu.

Issue to Address

These two SNPs were created by the government of Kyrgyzstan in early 2016. The project has been supporting the establishment of a management system to manage these two parks. It has procured some critical equipment for Rangers to better monitor and surveil fauna and flora as well as equipment to facilitate their fieldwork, including riding horses and camping equipment. Management teams are in place and management systems for these parks are being developed. In the meantime, there is a limited common vision among stakeholders (SNPs staff, Rangers and local communities) and some risks around these protected areas such as mining. It is recommended to support collaboratively the development of a vision and objectives for each new State National Park. 

1. Recommendation:

4.2. Recommendations

Based on the findings of this mid-term review, the following recommendations are suggested. 

R1. It is recommended to conduct a capacity assessment and allocate project resources to consolidate capacities during the remaining implementation period of the project.

Issue to Address The scope of the project is broad. It includes the introduction of several new management concepts to conserve biodiversity such as METT, HCVF, SFM, PES, etc. Introducing these concepts require a lot of capacity development activities to mainstream them in key organizations responsible for managing and conserving biodiversity. Activities implemented during the lifetime of the project may not be enough to ensure the sustainability of project achievements. Despite the good progress made by the project so far, two critical questions are raised: how sustainable capacities developed with the support of the project are? Is the project spreading its resources too thin due to too many intervention areas and too many activities to be implemented? In order to maximize the sustainability of project achievements, it is recommended to focus on developing capacities of individuals (skills and knowledge) and on strengthening organizational processes and systems for the remaining implementation period of the project.

Management Response: [Added: 2020/01/02] [Last Updated: 2021/02/21]

The recommendation is well noted, and UNDP will discuss it at the upcoming project board meeting to consider putting a greater emphasis on implementation of the Capacity building plan of the State Agency on Environment Protection and Forestry. And as recommended by the Evaluator the Project will revise the project budget.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
The new Electronic-PA management system will include a feature on capacity building and modules for PA specialists
[Added: 2020/01/02] [Last Updated: 2022/01/06]
CO, Project personnel 2022/12 Initiated This work will be continued in 2021 History
Convene the project board meeting and discuss the proposed recommendations.
[Added: 2020/01/02]
CO, Project personnel 2019/12 Completed State Agency on Environment Protection and Forestry (SAEPF) proposed to support capacity building plan for PAs and action was included into AWP 2020.
Jointly with other partners World Bank, GIZ, FAO project developed Capacity building plan for SAEPF. The project will support with implementation of the Capacity Building plan for PAs and in 2020 series of trainings are planned. All training modules /materials to be developed under this activity will also contribute to enhancing the capacity of the mobile training centre of the Frunze Forestry.
[Added: 2020/01/02] [Last Updated: 2020/12/13]
CO, Project personnel 2020/12 Completed Jointly with other partners World Bank, GIZ, FAO, the project developed Capacity building plan for SAEPF, the implementation of which was supported in 2020. History
Study tours are planned on HVCF, PA and scientific activities.
[Added: 2020/01/02] [Last Updated: 2022/01/06]
CO, Project personnel 2021/12 Completed Due to the COVID-19 restriction the study tour has been canceled. History
2. Recommendation:

R2. It is recommended to conduct feasibility studies in the two SNPs to identify the potential for diversifying sources of income, including development of ecotourism and potential impact on local livelihoods.

Issue to Address The project has been supporting the establishment of the two new SNPs: Alatai and Kan-Achuu. They still not get the same level of funding from the government as other PAs in the country. In the meantime, there are expectations that these 2 new SNPs will be able to diversify their sources of revenue and that these protected areas will also provide additional sources of income to local communities and increase their livelihoods. It is recommended to conduct feasibility studies in these 2 parks to identify potential sources of income, their feasibility and the possible economic impacts to increase livelihoods of local communities. 

Management Response: [Added: 2020/01/02] [Last Updated: 2021/02/21]

The recommendation is well noted, and UNDP will continue discussions with the partners to ensure the development of sustainable finance mechanisms for SNPs so that they sustain after the project is over. Jointly with the other UNDP projects as Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) and Aid for Trade the Project has been exploring opportunities for best sustainable finance solutions for the State National Parks. As we share the same pilot territory with the Aid for Trade project we are planning to collaborate on beekeeping and tourism development.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Potential and immediate solutions are birdwatching and ecotourism and scientific tourism
[Added: 2020/01/02] [Last Updated: 2022/01/06]
CO, Project personnel 2022/12 Initiated History
Explore and facilitate philanthropic donations to support the State Nature Parks “Kan-Achuu” and “Alatay”
[Added: 2020/01/02] [Last Updated: 2022/01/06]
CO, Project personnel 2022/12 Initiated This work will be continued in 2022 History
Project will also contribute to the work of BIOFIN project on establishment of Biodiversity Conservation Trust Fund to mobilize additional financial resources for biodiversity conservation
[Added: 2020/01/02] [Last Updated: 2020/12/13]
CO, Project personnel 2020/12 Completed Indeed, the Project worked closely with the BIOFIN project on establishment of Biodiversity Conservation Trust Fund to mobilize additional financial resources for biodiversity conservation. The results of this work will be communicated in 2021. History
Jointly with the Aid for Trade project the mechanisms of effective cooperation with Tour operators based on appropriate agreements and services in the PAs will be developed and tested
[Added: 2020/01/02] [Last Updated: 2022/01/06]
CO, Project personnel 2021/12 Completed The work will be considered within the Aid for Trade Project History
Increase entrance fees and develop plans to improve the touristic infrastructure in the State Nature Parks “Kan-Achuu” and “Alatay”
[Added: 2020/01/02] [Last Updated: 2022/01/06]
CO, Project personnel 2021/12 Completed This is not under control of UNDP and decision will be taken under the Government decree, which is now under the consideration. History
3. Recommendation:

R3. The recommendation is well noted and will follow up under the AWP 2020.

Management Response: [Added: 2020/01/02] [Last Updated: 2021/02/21]

The recommendation is well noted and will follow up under the AWP 2020.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Develop new management plans for Alatai and Kan-Achuu SNPs taking into account METT and other tools
[Added: 2020/01/02] [Last Updated: 2022/01/06]
CO, Project personnel 2022/12 Initiated This is still ongoing work History
Development of the E-PA system will also contribute to this recommendation
[Added: 2020/01/02] [Last Updated: 2022/01/06]
CO, Project personnel 2022/12 Initiated This is ongoing work History
The Capacity building plan developed for SAEPF also includes some training activities to increase understanding of PA management on relevant areas
[Added: 2020/01/02] [Last Updated: 2022/01/06]
CO, Project personnel 2021/12 Completed The State Agency on Environment and protected forest (SAEPF) was abolished in 2021 by the decree of the president on realignment of government structure. The Capacity building activities will be discussed and supported to the newly established Ministry of forestry and existing Ministry of agriculture. History
4. Recommendation:

R4. It is recommended to conduct a strategic review of the overall PA network in Kyrgyzstan; including its legislation, management arrangements and roles and responsibilities.

Issue to Address 

Kyrgyzstan is on its way to increase its area of protected areas to 10% of the total territory by 2020. There is a policy and legislative framework in place. However, the network of PAs still suffers from underfunding and suboptimal management, including the fact that most PAs have no legally backed bufferzones and no corridors for the protection of some species such as the Snow Leopard and high conservation value forests are not protected. According to the “6th National Biodiversity Report for the CBC”, the network of PA in Kyrgyzstan needs to improve its management system; its legislation to eliminate shortcomings; its management arrangements including a clearer delineation of responsibilities between state bodies, local state administrations and local self-government authorities; and its monitoring. Within the framework of the current NBSAP covering the period till 2030, it is recommended to conduct a strategic review of the PA network in Kyrgyzstan in order to identify key issues preventing the development of a more effective network and explore the solutions to address these shortcomings. 

Management Response: [Added: 2020/01/02] [Last Updated: 2021/02/21]

The recommendation is noted. The newly established Department of the Biodiversity and PAs under the SAEPF needs capacity building support. In line with the new changes to the Public Budgeting joint activities will be implemented with the BIOFIN Project.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Support SAEPF’s staff with implementation of the National priorities on Biodiversity Conservation Action Plan, National Strategy of Snow Leopard Conservation, including the topics of conflict management and community engagement
[Added: 2020/01/02] [Last Updated: 2022/01/06]
CO, Project personnel 2022/12 Initiated This is ongoing work History
Support SAEPF with development of a Concept of PAs development in Kyrgyzstan for 2020-2040
[Added: 2020/01/02] [Last Updated: 2022/01/06]
CO, Project personnel 2022/12 Initiated History
Improving the procedures of budgeting and execution by protected areas and forestry enterprises
[Added: 2020/01/02] [Last Updated: 2022/01/06]
CO, Project personnel 2022/12 Initiated this is ongoing work History
Scaling up the performance based budgeting for PAs
[Added: 2020/01/02] [Last Updated: 2022/01/06]
CO, Project personnel 2022/12 Initiated History
Convene the project board meeting and discuss the proposed recommendations.
[Added: 2020/01/02]
CO, Project personnel 2019/12 Completed
5. Recommendation:

R5. It is recommended to increase the participation of key stakeholders in the procurement of project goods and services.

Issue to Address

The implementation of project activities has a lot of “moving parts”, rendering the management and administration a complex affair. The project implementation team has been using a variety of management tools to get the job done efficiently: adaptive management, flexibility, consensus building, innovation, transparency, partnerships, collaborative management, etc. It has been using all available “channels” to deliver activities and reach expected results as planned. However, within this context and considering that the project implementation modality is DIM – i.e. UNDP assumes the overall management responsibility and accountability for the implementation of the project – the procurement process is still viewed as slow by stakeholders and they would like to see a more transparent/participative process in procuring project goods and services. It is recommended to increase the participation of key stakeholders in the project procurement processes.

Management Response: [Added: 2020/01/02] [Last Updated: 2021/02/21]

Recommendation is well noted, and project will consider this in line with the UNDP rules and procedures. Project has been discussing ToRs and plans with relevant departments of SAEPF to secure coordination, their participation and ownership. Thus all ToRs and specifications have been cleared by the National partners.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Convene the project board meeting and discuss the proposed recommendations.
[Added: 2020/01/02] [Last Updated: 2020/12/13]
CO, Project personnel 2020/12 Completed The recommendation is discussed on the project board. History
Involve Finance unit of SAEPF and one representative from respective Departments depending on the nature of procurement
[Added: 2020/01/02] [Last Updated: 2022/01/06]
CO, Project personnel 2021/12 Completed The State Agency on Environment and Protected forestry (SAEPF) was abolished by the decree of the president on realignment of the government structure. History
6. Recommendation:

R6. It is recommended to monitor the financial status of the project and request a no-cost time extension of the project if the GEF grant will not be expended by December 2021.

Issue to Address 

As of end of June 2019, total expenditures amount to about USD 1.322M representing about 33% of the GEF grant versus an elapsed time of 50% (30 months out of 60). When considering the timeline left for implementing the project (30 months), it is doubtful that the entire budget will be expended by December 2021. From an average monthly disbursement of USD 44,059 so far, the project would need to double its average monthly disbursement to USD 88,893 for the remaining implementation period. It would require a drastic change in managing the project with a significant increase of project activities and disbursements to reach this average. It is recommended to monitor the disbursements in the coming year and if needed recommend a no-cost time extension of the project to consolidate its achievements. 

Management Response: [Added: 2020/01/02] [Last Updated: 2021/02/21]

This potential risk of not being able to spend GEF grants was caused by the belated project launch and some repeated procurement activities. Despite the volatility of the situation the Project team has been doing its best to put the project implementation back on track and will continue these efforts to ensure budget utilization by the project closure date. But it should be noted there are still activities falling beyond project’s full control like ranger houses’ construction works and implementation of alternative livelihoods program.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Discuss with the Project Board members proposed recommendations.
[Added: 2020/01/02] [Last Updated: 2020/12/13]
CO, Project perosnnel 2020/12 Completed The project is implemented based on the respective AWPs with no delays. However the project risks are added in the Risk Log and monitored regularly. History
Draft request for no-cost time extension of the project to IRH with valid and strong justifications
[Added: 2020/01/02] [Last Updated: 2022/01/06]
CO, Project personnel 2021/12 Completed The request on project extension till July 2023 was sent to IRH and awaited the endorsement from the GEF. History
7. Recommendation:

R7. It is recommended to review co-financing commitments and request yearly estimates from Partners of the project.

Issue to Address

Co-financing commitments at the outset of the project totaled USD 24,519,183, which represented about 86% of the total amount of the financial resources committed in the project document (GEF grant + cofinancing). So far, limited reporting has been made available on co-financing contributions. Yet, Partners have certainly contributed critical resources to the implementation of this project. It is recommenced to review theses co-financing commitments and request Partners to provide yearly estimates of their contributions.

Management Response: [Added: 2020/01/02] [Last Updated: 2021/02/21]

Recommendation is accepted and well noted. Will update at all project boards.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Project will collect information quarterly and monitor all commitments
[Added: 2020/01/02] [Last Updated: 2022/01/06]
CO, Project personnel 2021/12 Completed The project collected information and monitored all commitments. History
The issues around co-financing will be discussed during the Project Board
[Added: 2020/01/02]
CO, Project personnel 2019/12 Completed
Review the BIOFIN’s report and keep in touch with the Ministry of Finance to double check commitments from the State Budget
[Added: 2020/01/02] [Last Updated: 2022/01/06]
CO, Project personnel 2021/12 Completed This work is conducted within the BIOFIN Project. History
8. Recommendation:

R8. It is recommended to add and monitor a political risk to the project risk log.

Issue to Address

The current risk log covers most aspects of the project where issues can arise. It includes the risk of insufficient capacity development and practical know-how within state institutions and local authorities by the end of the project to allow sustainability of project achievements; and the risk of implementing legislative changes in a timely manner that are required to develop an adequate enabling environment for the promotion of these new landscape approaches. However, one additional risk that may arise is a change in political support for promoting new landscape approaches to biodiversity conservation and for integrating these new approaches within the environmental sector. It is recommended to add this risk to the risk log of the project and monitor/report on it yearly.

Management Response: [Added: 2020/01/02] [Last Updated: 2021/02/21]

The recommendation is well noted. This would be a very important and critical risk for the project if occurs. As the country is now getting prepared for the parliament elections in  2020 it is obvious that following the elections changes in local authorities are expected. Therefore, the project team will concentrate its capacity building activities onto the SAEPF to live through and avoid potential risks.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
This will be added to the risk log and monitored by the project. And it will also be reported in the next PIR.
[Added: 2020/01/02] [Last Updated: 2020/12/13]
CO, Project personnel 2020/12 Completed The political risk is added to the project risk log. The project risks will be monitored during the project implementation period. History
9. Recommendation:

R9.  It is recommended to develop a vision and objectives for the two new State National Parks: Alatai and Kan-Achuu.

Issue to Address

These two SNPs were created by the government of Kyrgyzstan in early 2016. The project has been supporting the establishment of a management system to manage these two parks. It has procured some critical equipment for Rangers to better monitor and surveil fauna and flora as well as equipment to facilitate their fieldwork, including riding horses and camping equipment. Management teams are in place and management systems for these parks are being developed. In the meantime, there is a limited common vision among stakeholders (SNPs staff, Rangers and local communities) and some risks around these protected areas such as mining. It is recommended to support collaboratively the development of a vision and objectives for each new State National Park. 

Management Response: [Added: 2021/02/15] [Last Updated: 2021/02/21]

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
These two SNPs were created by the government of Kyrgyzstan in early 2016. The project has been supporting the establishment of a management system to manage these two parks. It has procured some critical equipment for Rangers to better monitor and surveil fauna and flora as well as equipment to facilitate their fieldwork, including riding horses and camping equipment. Management teams are in place and management systems for these parks are being developed. In the meantime, there is a limited common vision among stakeholders (SNPs staff, Rangers and local communities) and some risks around these protected areas such as mining. It is recommended to support collaboratively the development of a vision and objectives for each new State National Park.
[Added: 2022/01/06]
Project personnel and CO 2022/12 Initiated

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